Grilled Eggplant Cannelloni with Ricotta and Prosciutto


Lengthwise slices from a large eggplant become supple when grilled, so you can roll them around a ricotta filling as if you were making cannelloni from pasta squares. Blanketed with a homemade fresh-tomato sauce and baked until bubbly and a little crusty around the edges, the fork-tender bundles of stuffed eggplant are the ultimate Italian comfort food. From Eating Local by Janet Fletcher (Andrews McMeel).

  • 2 large globe eggplants, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds each
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 pounds plum (Roma type) tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
  • 8 to 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch hot pepper flakes
  • Kosher or sea salt

Ricotta Filling:

  • 1 pound fresh ricotta (or one 15-ounce container)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano, plus 1/2 cup for topping
  • 1/3 cup minced prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Slice off the eggplants’ green cap, then cut each eggplant lengthwise into slices about 1/3 inch thick. Discard the first and last slices, which are mostly skin. You should get at least 6 large slices from each eggplant. Sprinkle with salt on both sides, then set the slices on a rack to drain for 30 minutes.

Prepare a moderate charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium (375˚F). Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels, then brush both sides with the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Grill directly over the coals or flame until they are nicely marked by the grill and pliable, about 3 minutes per side. They do not need to be fully cooked as they will cook further in the oven. Set the slices aside on a tray to cool.

 Prepare the Tomato Sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft and beginning to color, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and cook, stirring often, until it softens and collapses into a sauce. Pass the mixture through a food mill fitted with the fine disk. Return it to the skillet and add the basil leaves, torn in half. Add the oregano, rubbing it between your fingers as you do, the hot pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and tasty. Set aside.

 Prepare the Ricotta Filling:  Put the ricotta, 1/2 cup pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto, parsley, and garlic in a bowl. Stir until blended, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the egg.

 Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Choose a shallow baking dish large enough to hold all the eggplant rolls snugly in one layer, such as a 13 by 9-inch oval baking dish. Spread 1/3 cup tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish.

 Put a generous 2 tablespoons filling on each eggplant slice and spread it evenly. Carefully roll the slices like a jelly roll and place them seam side down in the baking dish. Top with the remaining tomato sauce, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake until lightly browned and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Cool 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course